“What do I want to do with my life?” For those of us to whom an answer does not immediately pop up in our minds, it’s a good idea to explore what our options are. One of the best ways to do this is to shadow. Whether it’s medicine, law, research, business, finance, politics, journalism, entrepreneurship, or even culinary careers that you are interested in, shadowing can give you a great look at a day in the life of a <insert whatever you’re interested in!>. Here are three things to keep in mind when looking for a shadowing opportunity.

  1. You’re a student, and this opens doors. As a student, you are still considered to be young, innocent, exploring, with no political or other obligations other than your own opinion. As a student, you can approach a CEO of a major company or the Chair of an academic research center without them suspecting you of having any ulterior motives. It’s a great way to connect with the best in any field. Don’t be afraid to reach out to these people! Chances are, they also relied on the mentorship and guidance of others to help them get to where they are today. If you ask in the right way and show that you are genuinely interested, they might just be willing to do the same for you.
  2. Use this opportunity to make connections. I don’t just mean business connections or professional connections – make personal connections that are really meaningful and valuable, because these are the ones which will last throughout your chosen career, whatever it may be, or even throughout your lifetime. Get to know people for the sake of knowing who they are; learn their values before thinking about how their professional background and skills might benefit you in the long run. And once you’ve connected with them, don’t be afraid to ask questions! After all, you are shadowing them to learn about their work. Chances are, they will be flattered that you are interested in what they do.
  3. Be thankful! Genuine gratitude goes a long way. These people are giving their time and energy to you and allowing you to catch a glimpse of another world. Never forget to send a follow-up thank you email or card, letting them know how much you enjoyed the experience and telling them some of the things that you learned. They will definitely appreciate you feedback and the knowledge that they helped you in any way.

So if you’re interested in a career, send some emails, make some calls, and schedule a shadowing session! If you spend your time wisely, you just might find the perfect career for you.